‘Jat Bahadur’ as he is affectionately called by countless fans is quite composed and in a happy mood at his Juhu residence even after completing two hectic schedules of his latest projects. He says, “Yes, I am back to acting in full form, something I should have done long ago. I want to keep on working as long as I can.”
Dharmendra stars with sons Sunny and Bobby in Yamla Pagla Diwana produced by his production house — Vijeyta Films, and is directed by Samir Karnaik. He explains, “We completed the entire film in Patiala. The film belongs to the family-comedy genre but also has a touch of suspense. The title is based on the famous Mohammad Rafi hit from my film Pratigya.”
The other project Dharmendra is a part of is Tell Me Oh Khuda, produced by Hema Malini where he stars as Esha Deol’s father. Says the actor, “The film was shot in Goa and it is a contemporary, strong and emotional story about the relationship between a father and daughter. I loved working with Esha, who is a gifted actress with an accurate sense of timing.”
Ask him what kind of professional relationship he shares with his daughter and he says, “We have performed just as the characters in script should, but our actual relationship was an added advantage for us. In both Yamla Pagla Diwana and Tell Me Oh Khuda, I have acted my age with the right doses of emotions, which aren’t larger than life.
Exaggerating my emotions or giving over-the-top expressions makes me appear artificial and I always want to present my original self on and off screen.”
Although Hema Malini does not star in Tell Me Oh Khuda, Dharmendra assures that he will pair opposite her as and when a suitable script comes their way.
He agrees that the Hindi film industry has evolved over the decades and audience tastes too have changed. “Yet, it is heartening to know that the young generation admires my performances in Bandini, Baharen Phir Bhi Ayenge, Anupama and Satyakaam. Sadly, such films are no more made,” he remarks.
Dharmendra has had an illustrious career in Bollywood. He has performed with all the leading ladies of his time, including Meena Kumari, Suchitra Sen, Nutan, Asha Parekh and Sharmila Tagore. What’s more is that he along with Hema Malini worked in some memorable films in the 70s.
Says Dharmendra, “Suchitra Sen is the most dignified and versatile of all actresses I have worked with; Meena Kumari was at her best while performing intense characters and Nutan is the only actress whose talent can be compared to that of Suchitra Sen. I also loved working with Sharmila Tagore, who is a gorgeous and competent performer."
He idolises Motilal, Dilip Kumar and Uttam Kumar as “they never stuck to any particular performance style; they were natural performers, which is why I too make sure to churn out natural performances which don’t seem contrived. And for this, I still salute script writer Nabendu Da (Nabendu Ghosh) who penned Akash Deep, Bandini and Majli Didi for me.”
In fact Dharmendra is nationally admired for his natural performances and Bimal Roy felt he was one actor who could be easily moulded like clay. Portraying emotional and comic characters, performing in action-based or romantic flicks, all these have been Dharmendra’s forte as an actor and he has proved his ability in each of these genres.
The actor does not believe in hiding his likes, dislikes, emotions or anger. He says, “I am a human being first, then a celebrity. Frankly speaking, I have never thought of myself as a celebrity. So I behave and express what comes spontaneously to me.” Think of it and you realise that this very quality is also present in his sons and nephew too.
Another project of Dharmendra — Tito’s Har Pal directed by Jahnu Barua, which stars Preity Zinta, Shiney Ahuja and Isha Koppikar is to be released soon. According to reports, Dharmendra has excelled in Har Pal. He pauses for a while, then says, “I wish the film releases in time. It’s release has been pending since two years.” All said and done, ‘Jat Bahadur’ is still active, agile and fit as a fiddle, even after completing 50 glorious years in films. Kudos!